Journey to the southern end of the Longbeach Peninsula and on scenic Baker Bay, you’ll discover Ilwaco. This historic community was founded in 1848 and was once a thriving trading post for the Chinook Indians. Today, that thriving trade has taken on a whole new meaning with restaurants, seafood markets and fine dining. Nestling just within the Columbia River bar, Ilwaco is a sheltered fishing community with some of the finest sturgeon and salmon fishing in the country. It’s a community which is changing rapidly. One of its newest attractions is the quaint Harbor Village. Its waterfront location and brand new marina is ideal for both pleasure cruisers and for commercial fishing. Its abundant shops and art galleries, perfect for its countless visitors.
Ilwaco shopping is an easy and convenient experience as large parts of the community are pedestrianised with the added advantage of free parking. The wide choice of outlets caters for all tastes and ranges from quaint antique and fine art galleries to speciality stores. Amongst the more unique is ‘Nautical Brass’ on Howerton Way. This is a large retail store featuring some unique gift ideas from around the world. Included in the range is Italian brass lighting as well as ship models and collectables. It opens 10am-5pm daily and is well worth a browse: www.nauticalbrass.com has all the detail. Also on Howerton Way is ‘OleBob’s Fish Market’. Family owned, their speciality is fresh and locally caught tuna, salmon, oysters, clams and crab. Visit www.olebobs.com for more information.
During the summer months, the surrounding area comes alive with some great events for the whole family, including dogs. In late June – usually around the 28th – the Doggie Olympics are held in Longbeach. This is where age, breed, or size of dog is unimportant. The emphasis is on bonding, playing and competitive enjoyment. Events include obedience baseball, frisbee throwing and dunking for dogs. Running all summer on Saturdays and Sundays from May 25th until September 2nd, the Longbeach Summer Fest includes wagon rides, face painting, live music, kite decorating and sidewalk art. Not for the first time has it been described as the region’s best street fair. For more details, visit www.longbeachwa.gov/summerfest.
Later in the year, The Cranberrian Fair, held each October, is one of Ilwaco’s unique events. This is a great day out for the entire family and is a celebration of the local cranberry harvest and lots more. It runs from 10am-4pm, usually around mid month and features live music, foods and craft demonstrations. The collectable Fair buttons are $5 and cover admission to the Columbia Pacific Heritage Museum as well as all the events.
The CPHM houses permanent and special exhibitions which display the long and colourful history of the Columbia Pacific region and Euro-American settlers. To the south and west of the Museum’s main building is the Discovery Garden and Mariner’s Memorial Park. This marks an historic episode of the Lewis and Clark Corps of Discovery’s epic journey to the Pacific and shows indigenous plants long used by the Chinook. The Museum opens Tuesday-Saturday 10am-4pm and Sunday 12pm-4pm. In May, Ilwaco opens up its Saturday Farmer’s Market. This is where you’ll find crafts, baked goods, food and fresh produce. It’s a great opportunity to mingle with the locals and take in the fresh sea air as you stroll among the many stalls. This popular market runs until October.
Restaurants in Ilwaco cater for everyone. The Pelicano Restaurant offers waterfront dining with a mix of Mediterranean inspiration and Columbia-Pacific seafood. The welcoming atmosphere and superb views over the port adds up to a superb dining experience. The restaurant opens Wednesday to Sunday from 5pm and for reservations, call (360)-642-4034 or visit www.pelicanorestaurant.com for details. For fine, homemade Italian cuisine, try The Tuscany Cafe. This family-friendly restaurant offers fresh, quality ingredients and great views. It opens Thursdays 4pm-8pm and Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays 11am-8pm. Reservations are recommended on (360)-642-4899.
Nestling in a secluded cove between Ilwaco and Fort Canby State Park is the China Beach Retreat. This is ideal accommodation to escape the pace of modern living. A charming B&B, it is elegantly furnished with stunning views of Baker Bay: www.chinabeachretreat.com has all the detail. The 101 Haciendas Motel in Ilwaco is a comfortable and clean pet-friendly accommodation close to all of the community’s attractions. It offers Queen beds, in-room refrigerators and coffee makers with patio picnic areas. It’s an ideal stay for families and fishing parties.
Visit www.101haciendas.com or call (360)-642-8459. If you prefer to stay close to the waterfront, The Captain’s Quarters holiday condo is right on the harbour. It features three sizeable bedrooms and large open plan living room with bar and dining area. It’s ideal for a coastal vacation home and peaceful getaway. For details visit www.fishhookventures.com.
Head for the sheltered northeastern shore of Baker Bay and you’ll find the setting for the area’s spectacular Kayak and Canoe Race. First held in 2004, the event takes place in September and stretches over a 10km flat water course. The race is limited to 100 contestants but is open to all age groups and abilities. Very much a family event, its overall theme is a celebration of Pacific Northwest living. Parking is free for spectators and for more details call (800)-451-2542 or visit www.funbeach.com.
Originally called Unity by Union soldiers, Ilwaco was re-named after a Chinook Native – ‘Elowahka Jim’. The whole community is rich in tradition and rugged beauty. It has developed a number of outstanding events and unique festivals and is home to the southern end of the epic Discovery Trail. It’s a community which provides many delights for both locals and its numerous visitors. For more information visit www.ilwacowashington.com.